T4 designed with features to help disabled navigate new facility with ease

T4 is built on a plot of land that was originally occupied by the Budget Terminal, which was demolished on 25 September 2012 to make way for a new, larger, full-service passenger building (T4) that will cater to Changi Airport's growing traffic.
T4 is built on a plot of land that was originally occupied by the Budget Terminal, which was demolished on 25 September 2012 to make way for a new, larger, full-service passenger building (T4) that will cater to Changi Airport's growing traffic.ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
T4 will be the first terminal at Changi Airport to offer end-to-end Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST).
T4 will be the first terminal at Changi Airport to offer end-to-end Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST). ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Last Tuesday (July 18), Ms Jasmine Ho, 51, got off a bus and wheeled herself into Changi Airport's Terminal 4.

There was no kerb so the former chef, who uses a wheelchair, did not need help getting into the terminal and could alight anywhere along the terminal without worrying about looking for a ramp.

Inside the $985 million T4, Ms Ho did her own check-in at one of the many automated counters and dropped off her luggage before making her way to immigration.

There, she opted for one of the eight immigration lanes wide enough for wheelchair users.

Changi Airport's newest terminal will open only later this year, but Ms Ho was part of a group of 11 from the SPD, formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled, who took part in an operational trial of T4.

Last week's group from the SPD was the second group with disabilities to trial the new facility.

Participants from the Disabled People's Association went a week before, while individuals from the Singapore Association For The Deaf will visit T4 next month.  

In all, 50 participants with disabilities will test out navigating through T4's levels as well as through security procedures.

From October last year, more than 100 trials have been conducted with 2,000 volunteers and 1,000 staff.

Each trial involves about 200 people - simulating a flight load - who will go through the motions of departing from and arriving at Changi: check in, immigration and security, transit mall, boarding at gate, arriving and collecting luggage.

Trial participants then give feedback so that the airport can make tweaks before the terminal opens.

T4 got the thumbs-up from Ms Ho, who needed to use as wheelchair after spinal surgery last year.

"I could find all the signs, including where the priority queues are. T4 is also very beautiful," she said.


The kerbless entrance of T4 means that passengers can roll their luggage into the terminal building without having to lift their bags.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Apart from not having kerbs at the arrival and departure areas, the new terminal also features a hearing enhancement system installed at information counters.

 
 
 

Staff speak into a microphone at the counter and their voice is then transmitted directly into hearing aids used by hearing-impaired individuals.

Such direct transmission is clearer than having the hearing aid pick up a person's voice, especially in the airport, which can be crowded and noisy at times.

T4 also has toilets at every 100m, so if a disabled cubicle is occupied, another one is just around the corner.

Changi Airport Group (CAG) said that it had received a few suggestions from disabled passengers in the trials.

These included installing an additional grab bar in the shuttle bus where the wheelchair is parked and moving the hand soap dispenser in the handicap toilet closer to the tap.

CAG said both adjustments would be made.

SPD trial participant Muhammad Jai, 49, who started using a wheelchair after a stroke five months ago, said he would like T4 to have more travellators.

He said: "T1's public area has travellators in between the levels, this one doesn't. There are lifts but you have to wait for the lifts and they can get crowded."

Disabled People's Association executive director Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills said the involvement of those with disabilities was "a right step" but said it would have been better if they were involved earlier in the process.

"If they held user trials of existing terminals, they could have used that information to design a more inclusive T4. Involving persons with disabilities after much of the building work is already completed limits the scope of their feedback," she said.